Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s in your home
It can be a difficult and potentially over-whelming task
It is surprisingly common and understandable to want to care for a parent or loved one with Alzheimer’s at home. The comfort of a known environment and the love that can be given are decisive factors.
Dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s means adapting daily to changing needs and abilities.
What was once second nature can either gradually or instantly be forgotten and assistance can be required with regular activities such as dressing or eating.
This can place the caregiver under a large amount of stress which is increased when the person with Alzheimer’s begins to display abnormal personality traits. Previously contented people can become agitated easily and often wander away or experience hallucinations. Caring for people with Alzheimer’s is a full time job in itself.
The best way to cope
A plan is essential. Every day should involve a pre-determined routine and a plan for the various activities that will be necessary – whether a trip to the shops or the doctors. It is also important to think ahead and plan for things that might happen ahead of time, what to do when things go wrong and to create a back-up plan.
Another useful approach is to consider in advance the best way of dealing with any particularly difficult traits or behavioral patterns which are developing. It is a certainty that each day will hold a certain level of stress and a caregiver needs to know how to both handle these situations and to de-stress themselves.
It is also important to remember that the patient is still a person and that there are no specific rules for dealing with that person. Everyone is different and the disease reacts different in every case. The only way of dealing with it is to take each day as it comes and cope the best way you can. There are several things which can assist with this:
It is common for a person with Alzheimer’s to be much more coherent and more co-operative at roughly the same time each day. If this is the case then this can be the best opportunity to talk to them or to do chores which distract you from the pressure of constantly watching over them. As the disease progresses it is likely that their traits will change and you will need to rethink your approach many times. Be patient and try not to lose your temper if you notice that your loved one can’t understand what you’re trying to say.
• The best method to minimize the stress of this is to keep your sentences short and simple – always using a calm voice. The patient is still a person and it is never advisable to talk down to them, no matter how frustrating the situation may be.
• It is also essential to turn off the TV or radio when trying to talk. A lack of distractions will maximize your chances of understanding each other.
• Just as before they were ill be certain to call them by name and make eye contact – the emphasis is on obtaining their attention and focus before starting a conversation.
• A person with Alzheimer’s may take longer to gather their thoughts and words when talking. It may be frustrating but it is important to allow them the opportunity to reply to your question and not to interrupt them while they are doing so.
• Tact is essential. Some words may elude the person with Alzheimer’s and this will be a source of frustration to them. Gently encourage them or prompt them with the right word to allow them the dignity of finishing their sentence.
• All questions and concerns should be phrased in a positive way. Someone with memory loss can feel trapped and negative questions and responses will increase their chance of depression.
Your parent is still a person even if you can only see a hint of who they once were. Always try to listen and address their concerns, no matter how hard they are to understand. Caring for an aging parent with Alzheimer’s is an overwhelming task; but it’s not something impossible to do provided that you get to know the illness and understand the manifestation of its side effects.